The winter holiday season can be a period of happiness and connection for many, from decorating your home festively to celebrating with friends and family. Nevertheless, holidays can also be a time of tremendous stress, and this time of year can lead to more severe mental health issues for some people, such as increased anxiety or even holiday depression.
In one 2015 study, 62 per cent of those surveyed identified their level of holiday stress as “very or slightly elevated,” while only 10 per cent said that during the holiday season they were not stressed at all. Although a little bit of tension is natural when you plan for a busy time, there is no need for distressing emotions to get the better of you.
But what’s the safest way during a potentially anxiety-producing time of year to protect yourself? This holiday season, check out the following suggestions for efficiently and effectively protecting your mental health this holiday season:
Prioritize caring for yourself
While busy schedules around the holiday season might make the situation somewhat more stressful than usual, you can benefit both physically and emotionally from committing to your daily self-care routine as much as possible.
Don’t let the holiday season be an excuse to miss your exercise routine in the morning or get a good nights sleep. Self-care is more important than ever with the additional stress from holiday chaos,’ says social worker and therapist Rita Milios.
Everything should be in moderation
Excess eating, spending, and socializing are encouraged by the holiday season, all of which can cause or lead to holiday stress, causing mental health problems. During the forthcoming season, Milios advises being consistent with your non-holiday everyday behaviours and exercising restraint in everything you do, including deferring to others’ standards.
Reframe your mindset about winter
If the long, dark winter days cause you the worries, it can be beneficial to practice mindfulness and to be intentional in organizing motivational activities. Choose to see this time of year through a more optimistic lens to minimize holiday stress, even if you aren’t a fan of winter, “Milios says.” “Consider focusing on projects that you might have put off in the spring and summer to focus on, like reorganizing your wardrobe or garage.”
Learn to say no
The relentless bustle of the holidays can take a visible physical and mental toll, from office parties to family get-togethers. Take some time to consider what you can do before things get busy, and try to say no to events that are absolutely not required. When you have enough time to relax and invest in yourself, you will have more to say in the activities and events you want to participate in, and have much more fun.
Join the gift-giving trend
Although spending money on gifts can be a huge burden on both your chequebook and your mental health, it can be beneficial for you and those at the receiving end of your generosity to reframe how you perceive the act of giving. Milios says that by giving gifts of assistance (helping out a neighbour), spending the afternoon with a young relative, or serving food at a local homeless shelter, it could help to engage in a ‘pay-it-forward’ attitude in your daily life. “Such gift-giving will improve your morale and mental health for you and those who receive your gifts and costs nothing,” she says.
Give yourself time to go deep
It’s easy to skip over the deeper meaning behind the holiday season with insane timetables and overwhelming to-do lists. Finding meaningful ways to communicate with yourself and others can be a wonderful reminder about why we celebrate the holiday season in the first place. Whether you want to go to a church meeting or spend some quiet time at home writing things down on what you are thankful for.
Don’t hesitate to ask for help
If the winter or holiday season takes such an emotional strain on you that your loved ones notice, it may be time to seek help from a therapist or a doctor. Other warning signs include feeling habitually sad, poor sleep, feeling helpless, and being unable to do routine chores for mental health issues.